Daily Archives: April 15, 2018

“It’s not an easy question from an economic standpoint.”

Those of us who debate the question of the Cocktail Party remaining in Jacksonville might be interested in reading about Arkansas’ struggle with playing home games — at this point, more like a home game — in Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium.

In this case, the math is pretty stark.

“If this was a dollars-and-cents decision, it’s easy,” says Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek, and he’s correct. That presentation from last fall shows Arkansas loses $3.7 million per game by playing in Little Rock instead of Fayetteville – and beginning this fall, after that construction is completed, the number is expected to jump to $4.7 million.

There appears to still be a “but”, though.

But Yurachek, who was hired in December, isn’t finished:

“It’s not an easy decision if you talk about how playing games in Little Rock is a part of the fabric of this great state,” he adds.

If the situation is unique, so is Arkansas’ relationship with the Razorbacks. Without competition from professional sports or a significant in-state rival, the state essentially coalesces around the Hogs. (“One of the things I’ve found here is that everybody is a Razorback fan in some way, shape or form, at some level,” Yurachek says.) The result is undivided loyalty unlike almost anywhere else (several million Nebraskans might disagree). Viewed through that prism, an anachronism like playing games off campus might make sense, even as it hemorrhages dollars.

Former athletic director Jeff Long, who declined comment, was generally seen as desirous of moving the games to Fayetteville. But it was never that simple. And others have weighed in, publicly but also privately, and may have altered the equation. In a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson reiterated his support for keeping games in Little Rock.

“The history and traditions of Hog games at War Memorial Stadium are woven into the fabric of life in Arkansas,” Hutchinson said, “and I think it’s good for the University and Razorback fans across the state for that partnership to continue.”

That message is consistent with what Yurachek says he’s heard in several meetings with the governor. Others note that the governor appoints the university’s board of trustees, who’ll ultimately be asked to vote on the issue. A decision is expected by late spring or early summer, after Yurachek and Arkansas chancellor Joseph Steinmetz present a recommendation to the board.

“We fully understand what an important decision this is for all Razorback fans, especially for those who have been a part of the rich history and tradition of attending games at War Memorial Stadium for decades,” Steinmetz said in a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports. “We’ve taken the time to make sure we make the best decision possible for all involved.”

Politics and being the only game in town makes for a heady mix.  There are also infrastructure issues in the mix.

… Despite several renovations through the years, War Memorial Stadium is showing its age. In their presentation last fall, university officials said the stadium required significant facility upgrades with a price tag of up to $10 million in order to remain viable as a site for Razorback games. A recent feasibility study commissioned by Arkansas Parks and Tourism suggested $17 million in capital improvements were required. Those would likely be band-aids for the structure.

… For SEC games, a league rule requires the opponent to sign off on playing away from campus. And later this spring, a working group of SEC athletic directors is expected to unveil minimum standards for football venues, including for visitors’ and officials’ locker rooms (part of the $17 million in proposed improvements to War Memorial Stadium).

Speaking of politics, placating a powerful alum has created an even bigger home scheduling hurdle than Georgia has in Jax:

Another not insignificant piece to the puzzle: Through 2024, Arkansas is contracted to play its annual game with Texas A&M at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas – fondly known as “Jerry World,” for Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a former Razorback player who remains vitally involved in the program.

Every other year, as the designated home team in the series, Arkansas essentially loses a home date. If the Razorbacks are also playing in Little Rock, they’ll lose two dates on campus. And in Arlington and Little Rock, NCAA rules don’t allow Arkansas to conduct the same recruiting activities as at games on campus.

Really, when you boil it down, Arkansas has it much worse than does Georgia.  Playing in Jacksonville is a financial plus, the stadium meets NFL standards and the Dawgs aren’t playing two home games a year off campus.  And yet, they’re still saying Little Rock has a chance.

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Filed under Arkansas Is Kind Of A Big Deal

“… there’s no kid that’s ever sat back there on a kickoff and waved fair catch on the 1-yard line…”

You may have heard that the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel just passed several new rules, the most prominent of which allows the receiving team to fair catch a kickoff inside the 25-yard line and have it result in a touchback.

This, of course, means the end of directional kicking as we know it (Jon Fabris would be turning in his grave, if he were in one, figuratively speaking).

Kirby suggests the obvious:

Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship ranked second in the SEC and eighth nationally in touchback percentage last season at 71.3 percent (67 of 94). The national average was 42.4 percent, according to SI.com.

The Bulldogs ranked fourth in the SEC in kickoff return defense at 19.5.

“It could minimize the value of a good kicker,” Smart said. “If your kicker kicks a 4.4 (second) hang (time) to the 5-yard line, that’s a huge weapon because you couldn’t fair catch it. …It could take the weapon away. But we never told Rodrigo to kick it high and short. We told him to kick it out of the end zone. That’s what we want him to do.”

Just when Georgia gets its collective shit together on kickoff coverage… and on the receiving side?

Smart was asked if the rule change will alter Georgia’s approach.

“It’s not going to change anything,” Smart said. “We’re going to prepare for it and higher, shorter kicks will be fair caught. Kicks that we don’t think we can get to the 25, we’ll be better off fair catching. A lot of it depends on what type kicker you’re facing.”

And type of coverage team, too.  Which makes me wonder if there will be any change in special teams philosophy.  When the odds of actually having to cover a kick return decrease dramatically — and you have to think that 42.4% national average for touchbacks is about to go way up — does that affect your approach to constructing and coaching kickoff return teams?

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics, The NCAA

Such a deal

Adventures in fiscal mismanagement, University of Cincinnati edition:

In February 2014, then-University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono announced that he had chosen Mike Bohn as the school’s new athletic director.

“To recruit a leader of Mike’s caliber and national standing only reaffirms the strength, promise and pride of UC Athletics,” Ono said during Bohn’s introductory news conference.

Bohn was awarded a five-year contract. In 2015, Ono extended his contract through 2021, prompting the UC athletic director to promise a “seismic transformation” within the program.

“We want national respect and the ability to play on the biggest stage possible,” Bohn told Fox19 in October 2015. “It’s really fun to be a part of. I feel like this is our time.”

While the UC Athletic Department has experienced a profound transformation under Bohn, it is not the one he intended. Deficits have soared and students are paying the price.

Between 2014 and 2017, the athletic department’s deficit totaled almost $102 million — a 33 percent increase over the prior four years, records show.

Okay, so the guy obviously can’t manage money.  That hardly makes him unusual.  What’s so special at Cincy?

UC officials have covered the deficit with student fees and money from the school’s general fund, which is primarily funded by student tuition. For a full-time undergraduate student, the four-year price tag to cover the athletic department’s deficit was almost $4,900, records show.

Holy money drain, Batman!

The department’s total expenses for 2017 were $62.8 million, meaning student subsidies covered nearly 43 percent of their expenses, records show.

Wow.  How do you sell that?

The News Record attempted on numerous occasions over six weeks to schedule an interview with Bohn through a UC Athletic Department representative. Despite their assurances that a meeting with Bohn was forthcoming, they were unable to arrange the interview.

“It’s an investment, and it’s an investment in the enterprise on campus,” Bohn said of athletic subsidies in a 2015 interview with CityBeat. “It’s a strategic investment with a high return.”

These guys don’t lack for blind arrogance, do they?  I think students would have done better putting that money in a CD.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness